A mixture of lacklustre play by some Wharfedale players, coupled with superb use of possession by Coventry, led to Coventry scoring six tries in the first half. With Clifford Hodgson converting the first five and adding a penalty, Wharfedale’s single effort gave the scoreline of 43-5 to the home side.
Coventry’s first score came after 87 seconds. Dale conceded a penalty just after they kicked off. From the resulting line out Coventry ran the ball and a break in midfield gave a three man overlap and a seemingly easy try for Gareth Turner.
A lost line out, a knock on and more missed tackles in midfield allowed the second try by William Hurrell after 7 minutes and a 14-0 deficit.
Coventry threatened to score again when Hodgson was allowed to run out of defence only for his through kick to elude his winger and go into touch. The lost line out was rescued by a thumping tackle from Jake Armitage and a scrum awarded to Dale. The Yorkshire side then battled back into the game and started to compete. An illegal drive from the home side was punished by a deep kick from Tom Davidson into the 22. The line out worked and the ball moved into midfield. James Doherty sent a weighted grubber kick through and speedster Taylor Prell beat the defence to touch down wide to the right. Davidson just missed the conversion but the visitors were back in the game.
From the restart Dale tried to keep some momentum with Scott Jordan and Taylor Prell running at Coventry but the move broke down when Matt Beesley became isolated and a penalty was awarded to the Midlanders. Even though they made errors Coventry still pressed through weak tackling and Callum McBurnie added their third try.
Dale started to build again and a good move from Matt van Sertima took play into Cov’s 22 but they were allowed to run the ball back and put pressure on the Green defence. This pressure led to a yellow card to Will Bell and three points from the boot of Hodgson.
Wharfedale’s attempts to build again foundered when a slow kick from Tom Davidson was charged down by Thomas Poole who collected the ball for an easy score. The first half rout was completed with Dominic Lespierre and Matthew Paice taking the tally to six tries before half time. The last one coming after the Green Machine was driven back on their own put in!
There were no complaints or moans but Dale supporters were seen to have an embarrassing shuffle at the interval. Wharfedale squandered what possession they had with a combination of handling errors and very poor control at the line out. Couple this with weak tackling and the half time score was justified. It looked like a grim afternoon and a very heavy defeat was on the cards.
The bench was brought on at half time and this led to a resurgence in the visitor’s fortunes.
Sarcastic comments from one or two of the home supporters were silenced as Dale started to play with more authority. They dominated territory and possession throughout and brought the scores closer and gained a valuable bonus point for scoring four tries.
From the kick off Wharfedale showed more determination, tackles were made, the line out began to work and Coventry were pushed back. Grim defence by Coventry was ended when hooker Matthew Price was yellow carded for a technical offence. The line out was won and led to Tom Burridge touching down. Scott Jordan took over the kicking duties and duly obliged with the extra two points.
Dale scored again almost immediately when a quickly taken free kick saw Doherty dance through the defence to set up Jordan under the posts. Jordan chipped over the conversion.
More good work from the restart from Taylor Prell and Ian Larkin pushed Cov into their 22 with a defensive line out. They won the line out but a crunching tackle from Adam Howard led to a penalty to Dale. The ball was moved and a great run from Jordan led to his second try and gave Dale a bonus point. With another wedge shot from Jordan the score was now 43-26 and a seemingly unlikely come back on the cards.
Dale still pressed but progress was halted with a long range penalty kick from Hodgson after 74 minutes.
In the last move of the game Coventry scored what one of the home supporters called a consolation try with Daniel Rundle scoring a solo effort with Hodgson’s conversion making the final score 53-26.
Players walked off with a lot more satisfaction than they did at half time. It was good to see them thanking the small travelling band for their support.
“It was a game of two halves” said Wharfedale Chairman, David Baker, who then made me promise not to quote him. So I will refrain from doing so. There were kind comments at half time from some of the home supporters who managed to find good things to say about the visitors. Some of the regular travelling support was speechless.
For most of the first half it looked like men against boys and we had no right to be in the same league! One faithful supporter commented that he had never seen a worse half of rugby from Dale. Harsh words but true. Coventry took full advantage of everything Wharfedale offered them and the score at half time did not flatter them at all.
By the end of the match there were positives. The line out, so abysmal in the first half, never failed. Tackling improved and, apart from the last gasp Coventry try, stopped the free running of the home side. Players supported each other and breaks were supported. Phases were put together and there were hardly any handling errors.
Another positive was the way Dale dominated for most of the second half and when Coventry was reduced to 14 men they were made to pay. Too often this season we have had one or two man advantages and failed to score!
Wharfedale -Taylor Prell (Tom Davidson, 76), Scott Jordan, Matt van Sertima, Tom Davidson (Josh Prell, HT), Oliver Cicognini; Will Bell, James Doherty; Matthew Beesley (Joe Altham, HT), Dan Stockdale (Ian Larkin, HT), Jake Armstrong (Matt Beesley, 69), Simon Willett, Richard Rhodes (Adam Howard, HT), Tom Burridge, Chris Howick (Jim Mason, HT), Joshua Burridge.